I don’t buy cookbooks very often, and am using them less and less these days. I do own a small handful of particularly beautiful and inspiring books, however, many of which have helped me learn the art of flavor combinations and important techniques. Here are a few hippie-approved favorites from my collection.
ReBar: Modern Food Cookbook, by Audrey Alsterberg and Wanda Urbanowicz.
From the restaurant in Victoria, B.C. by the same name, this cookbook offers a Southwestern-style take on healthy eating. Everything I’ve made from here so far has been rewarding and unique, but some of my favorites include their Smoky Sweet Potato Soup and Calypso Roti.
The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving, by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard.
From homemade ketchup to onion jam, this book is full of remarkably simple jams, spreads, and pickles. The best part is, the recipes make just enough to enjoy for a few weeks, without having to delve into the full canning experience.
The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz.
As a devotee of DIY kombucha, kefir, and kimchi, I can’t believe it took me so long to finally purchase this book. I’ve been a follower of Katz’s old-school website for some time, but if you want to ferment at home, this is the most comprehensive guide out there. Katz presents the concepts and processes of fermentation with clarity, guiding beginners through sauerkraut and yogurt, but provides instruction for more experienced practitioners as well. This guide covers the full range of turning stuff bad…for the better.
Moosewood Restaurant New Classics, by the Moosewood Collective.
This is my first (of hopefully many more!) cookbooks from the venerable vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, NY. Chock full of gourmet vegetarian options from stews and sauces to light lunches and brunches, this cookbook also features many useful tips on ingredients and going organic. It’s visually pleasing and conversational.
More-With-Less Cookbook, by Doris Janzen Longacre.
I’ve had the pleasure of living with many Mennonites, and this book is one of the staples of frugal living and cooking. This book covers the basics of ethical consumption, and is full of globally-influenced foods that are affordable, healthy, and easy to prepare. Cooks from all over the world offer their stories and tips throughout, making it read like a conversation around a weathered harvest table. The recipes aren’t gourmet, but they are simple and delicious—any book that taught me the granola basics deserves serious props.
Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, by Brian Polcyn and Michael Ruhlman.
The ultimate meat-lovers project book, this is more my husband’s deal-io, but it’s a pretty one to have on the shelf. If you think it’s all about doing delicious things with fat, this book will surprise you with its numerous recipes for fresh, lean, homemade sausages, as well as the basics of curing.
How To Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman.
This is a great resource for when you want to know what to do with fresh peas from the garden, or if it’s your first time cooking, say a rack of lamb. Bittman has a chatty, cheerful style that makes working with food a joy. He also offers convenient menus in the back, such as “lazy weekend brunch for four” as well as ideas for special occasions and holidays.